Dame Vanessa Redgrave

  1. Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.       In Marshalltown, Iowa, Seberg was the baby-sitter for Mary Beth Hurt, who grew up to play Seberg (in voice-over) in the documentary, From the Journals of Jean Seberg, 1995. The script had her revealing that both Vanessa and Jane Fonda auditioned for tyrannical director Otto Preminger. He also considered such unlikely Joans as Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Claire Bloom, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie Reynolds, Maggie Smith, Liz Taylor and… Mamie Van Doren!
  2. Wendy Craig, The Servant, 1963.       This should have been Vanessa’s movie debut… except she was pregnant with with her first child, Natasha Richardson.
  3. Lynn Redgrave, Georgy Girl, 1966.         “When Vanessa couldn’t do it, they asked Lynn,” recalls Alan Bates. And former TV director Silvio Narizzano put back in all the lines about Georgy looking like the back of a bus – in the first UK feature with a bare butt. That of Alan Bates. Of course.
  4. Susannah York, A Man For All Seasons, 1966.     As soon as she agreed to be Thomas More’s daughter, she was offered The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on-stage. “Very upset,” she called on director Fred Zinnemann, who found it impossible not to release her. Susannah moved in.   “Van” then came to Fred’s aid when, after searching through dozens of sexy beauties, he couldn’t find one who had 45 seconds to “convince the audience she was capable of hanging the course of an empire” – and Redgrave played Anne Boleyn for him. On three conditions No credit, no salary, no realism (The Queen had six fingers per hand and “too many breasts”) and, indeed, no dialogue. “She did almost nothing,” praised Fred, “except lean forward and blow into her sovereign’s ear – seductive and totally convincing in the magnetism and power of this woman.”
  5. Charlotte Rampling, The Long Duel, 1967.       She cleverly avoided another mindless example of The Rank Organisation trying to go international.
  6. Susannah York, Sebastian, 1967.      Impossible. Vanessa was already off to Camelot.  Peter O’Toole called her  Biv Van. (Jodie Foster, therefore, was Midget).
  7. Joanna Pettet, Robbery, 1967.      Producer Michael Deeley wanted Vanessa to play the wife of his star and business partner Stanley Baker. Her husband – Deeley’s previous boss at Woodfall Films – was furious. “How,” asked Tony Richardson, “could you possibly involve my wife with a thug like Stanley Baker?” To which, Deeley responded: “Stanley may have played thugs, but he certainly isn’t one in real life.” Deeley and Vanessa finally got together for Young Catherine, TV, 1991.
  8. Faye Dunaway, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1967.     For the insurance agent investigating Tommy Crown, director Norman Jewison wanted Eva Marie Saint. Too old, screamed the suits. OK, the director drew up a dreamy wish list: Redgrave, Anouk Aimé, Brigitte Bardot, Candice Bergen, Leslie Caron, Julie Christie, Sharon Tate, Raquel Welch… and his star, Steve McQueen, suggested testing Camilla Sparv. “Yeah, well, I’ve just seen an early print of Bonnie and Clyde… and you’re gonna spend eight hours kissing her!”
  9. Maggie Smith, The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie, 1968.     She had created Jean Brodie on-stage, but was unavailable for the movie. And the Oscar goes to….
  10. Sandy Dennis, That Cold Day in the Park, 1968.   That’s how Sandy Dennis came up… Ingrid Bergman was “rather insulted by the part, ” a repressed and sex-obsessed spinster. Redgrave was not free. But she it was who told director Robert Altman: Try Sandy.

  11. Raquel Welch, Myra Breckinridge, 1970.   Vanessa,Anne Bancroft, Audrey Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Vanessa Redgrave and Elizabeth Taylor all passed on the hero/heroine. An enormous flop, ruining the careers of UK director MikerSarne, actor Roger Herren and poor Raquel.  “It should have been a comedy spoof,” said author Gore  Vidal, “with  Mike  Nichols directing”… a female impersonator as Myra!”    On hearing that Sarne was reduced to being a pizzeria waiter, Vidal said it proved “that God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry.”

  12. Ingrid Thulin, The Damned, Italy-Germany, 1969.     Or, Lady Macbeth, as Dirk Bogarde called the role. Adding: “I’d play a stick in the fireplace for Visconti if he asked me.”

  13. Jennie Linden, Women In Love, 1969.     Probably connected with the fact that Glenda Jackson (and her new, improved, pregnant breasts) had the better role of Gudrun, everyone else passed on being Ursula. Redgrave, Faye Dunaway, Shirley MacLaine (anti-nudity – unlike Redgrave, who referred to her body as part of her acting instrument) and Carol White reportedly refused a £10,000 offer. Maybe they were right. Ken Russell’s film didn’t do much for Linden’s career. She had been chosen because of her test with Peter O’Toole for A Lion In Winter, which she did not win. Being a brand new mother, she wasn’t keen. Flamboyant UK director Ken Russell played deaf. “Costume fitting – 10am, Monday.” She was great in (and out of) it. Vanessa later replaced Glenda in Russell’s The Devils, 1971.
  14. Anouk Aimée, The Appointment, 1969.        Better notion than first choice Kim Novak for a rare stinker from Sidney Lumet.
  15. Janet Suzman, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1970.     Having lost $10m for Columbia on a four consecutive flops, small films all, it was time for producer Sam Spiegel to go BIG again in the  River Kwai/Lawrence of Arabia tradition. BIG, but CHEAP. A mere $8m budget was not able to afford Vanessa (or Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly or Elizabeth Taylor!). Anyway, no one gave a damn about “two silly people,” wrote Stanley Kaufman in The New Republic, “getting what, as justice goes in this world, they deserved.”
  16. Glenda Jackson, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, 1971.     This time, Glenda replaced Vanessa. They paired up later that year in Mary, Queen of Scots.
  17. Glenda Jackson, The Boyfriend, 1971.       Ken Russell needed one of his star ladies to provide the cameo of a musical star breaking a leg and allowing Twiggy to… go out there and be a star!
  18. Glenda Jackson, Mary, Queen of Scots, 1971.     After selecting Redgrave as his Elizabeth I, US producer Hal B Wallis switched her to the Scottish sovereign. But who else could be    Elizabeth? His scenarist John Hale knew. He had also written the opening chapter of the superb BBC TV mini series, Elizabeth R, for a majestical Jackson. Redgrave finally played Elizabeth I in Anonymous, 2011, sharing the young/old portraits with daughter Joley Richardson.

  19. Hildegard Neil, Antony and Cleopatra, 1971.
    Despite some  thought about having Orson Welles directing Marlon Brando in a reprise of his 1952 Mark Antony, Charlton Heston grabbed both roles – he was one of the producers, after all!  Finding his Cleo was more difficult. He first thought of Anne Bancroft, and it was her husband, Mel Brooks, who said no thank you. Next: Diana Rigg, Portia in the 1969 Julius Caesar. “Charley Hero” then shuffled through Sophia Loren (the  El Cid co-star he never got on with), the Greek Irene Papas and four  other true Brits: Glenda Jackson,  Vanessa Redgrave, Susannah York – and signed the less expensive Neil. The film was, sang The Guardian critic Derek Malcolm, “The Biggest Asp Disaster in the World.

  20. Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Frenzy, 1971.      “A good colorful crime spree is good for tourism…” Once upon a whimsy, it was to be Inspector Olivier suspecting David Hemmings as a  serial killer, with Redgrave among his victims.  Not when Alfred Hitchcock started his 52nd and  penultimate film  – his first in Britain for 16 years. So poor Hitch must have been staggered to be rejected by so many UK stars… Olivier, Michael Caine, David Hemmings and Helen Mirren. She regretted her decision – and  played Mrs Hitch, Alma Reville, opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Hitchcock, in 2012.
  21. Susannah York, Images, 1972.      Bargain!  Director Robert Altman’s final choice helped write the final script.  

  22. Stephanie Beacham, The Nightcomers, 1972.         UK director Michael Winner almost pulled it off – Marlon Brando and Vanessa! But her Italian film, Tinto Brass’ La vacanza, ran over and Winner remembered the sulphuric Beacham from his Games.  
  23. Jenny Runacre, The Final Programme, 1973.       Probably wise to leave Miss Brunner alone – a mutation, absorbing the bodies of her lovers.   Or, at least in this sad ’n’ sorry movie version. Her then lover, Timothy Dalton, passed, as well. The novelist had the worst possible name for any writer. Michael Moorcock.
  24. Katharine Hepburn, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.       Imagine such political hotheads as Redgrave  and Wayne sahring the same set… !!   If well enough to  reprise his Oscar-winning True Grit marshal, John Wayne wanted Ingrid Bergman as Eula Goodnight, no less. Producer  Hal Wallis shortlisted Bette Davis, Maureen O’Hara, (of course!). Plus true Brits Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Maggie Smith. But he rejected any comeback for Loretta Young (godmother of his producer son Mike Wayne)godmother) which is when, in trying to avoid two wrinkly co-stars,  Duke suggested Mary Tyler Moore.  Hepburn won because the script by ex-Duke co-star Martha Hyer (Mrs Wallis, credited as Martin Julien) was a flagrant remix of  Kate’s  African Queen  – and as pathetic as director Stuart Miller. It was his second feature.  The  “6ft 6ins sonuvabitch no-talent, ” as  Duke termed him, never made a third. 
  25. Faye Dunaway, Network, 1976.      Having worked with the world’s “greatest English-speaking actress” on Murder on the Orient Express in 1974, director Sidney Lumet wanted Vanessa as Diana Christensen, “the ratings-hungry programming executive who is prepared to do anything for better numbers,” as critic Roger Ebert put it. But the Jewish scenarist Paddy Chayefsky refused her, due to her sympathies with the PLO:, Palestine Liberation Organisation.  “Paddy, that’s blacklisting,” said Lumet, also Jewish. “Not when a Jew does it to a Gentile,” retorted Paddy. Also in the Diana mix: Candice Bergen, Ellen Burstyn, Jill Clayburgh, Jane Fonda, Kay Lenz (stuck on TV’s Rich Man, Poor Man), Marsha Mason and Natalie Wood. Faye won one of the four Oscars won by the “satire” which became reality when the fictional UBS network became a fact. Fox.  The following year, Vanessa won a support  Oscar for Julia,  despite what she called intimidation (picketing and burning her effigy) outside the event by “Zionist hoodlums.”
  26.  Susannah York, The Rollicking Adventures of Eliza Fraser, Australia, 1976.        Not rollicking enough… Either one! Two versions were planned and Julie (or Vanessa Redgrave) was to be the lead in Czech director Jiri Weiss’ take on the aftermath of the sinking of the Stirling Castle off Queensland on May 22, 1836. Aussie helmer Tim Burstall rushed his version before the cameras… Too rushed, perhaps. One critic, Stephen Groenewegen called it Carry On Convicts. 

  27. Sally Field, Sybil,TV, 1976.   
    Based on a real case, Sybil had multiple personalities – 16 of them!  Patty Duke, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood were up for them. Field was more determined. “I had worked my whole life – lived my whole life – to play this rôle. I knew her. She belonged to me.”  Through April and May, Sal kept reading, testing, auditioning, call  it what you will, in her baggy, ragamuffin clothes, for four people in a business office, including “the least interested” director Anthony Page, who wanted Redgrave. (“Who wouldn’t?” said Sal). She would leave the group stunned, totally confused. “How on earth could The Flying Nunbe the best choice!”   To prove she was wrong for the part – or right! – she tested with Joanne Woopdward, who’d  been here before in The Three Faces of Eve, 1956, and was now set for Sybil’s shrink. (She had been asked to be Sybil).  After the videotaping, Woodward told the suits: “If Sally is not cast as Sybil, then I won’t be your Dr Wilbur.” Oh, and Daniel Petrie directed. Sal won an Emmy, with two Oscars to come In her now, non-flying future.

  28. Marthe Keller, Fedora, France-West Germany, 1977.   When Billy Wilder’s penultimate film was being set up at Universal, the suits wanted either Hepburn, Audrey or Katharine, as the reclusive, Garboesque screen diva.  Or, hey, Billy-baby, better idea – both of them!  For the younger and older incarnations.  (I have a distinct feeling Kate rapidly put a stop to that notion).  Michael York, who played himself, in the star system story, reported that Vanessa Redgrave had been keen on the title role(s). Billy-baby was more interested in Faye Dunaway and Dietrich (the obvious choice). Marlene, however, detested Tom Tryon’s novella. Crowned Heads, and found the script no better. Wilder then saw Bobby Deerfield, fell for Keller and made the movie in Corfu, very much as a companion piece to Sunset Boulevard, 1949. (William Holden is in and narrates both).
  29. Lee Remick, The Europeans, 1979.  Vanessa preferred Ibsen’s Lady from the Sea on stage  to Eugenia Young in  the first of three superbly crafted adaptations of Henry James novels by the glorious  team of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and scenarist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.   She agreed, however, to be  Olive Chancellor in  the team’s The Bostonians in 1982 then promptly changed  her mind. Glenn Close was booked until offered The Natural film with “every woman’s fantasy, Robert Redford.” And Redgrave relented. 
  30. Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 1981.     It took a dozen years (and directors, from Lindsay Anderson to Fred Zinnemann) to adapt John Fowles’ unfilmable novel. Helmer Katrel Reisz and playwright Harold Pinter spent all of 1979 solving it, dropping versions by Dennis Potter, etc., and turning the lovers into dual roless – matching the affair of two actors filming the affair of the titular, Victorian heroine. After Redgrave in 1970, next thoughts for Sarah/Anna were Francsca Annis, Gemma Jones and Helen Mirren. Fowles liked Mirren, but saw Sarah’s independence and freedom from convention as American and fell for Streep Shakespearing in Central Park. “So audacious, so free… a range of temperament that is very rare, and a very special sort of daring.” Despite gaining her first Best Actress nod, Streep felt this among her weakest portrayals. By 2017, she had won 20 nominatins and three Oscars.

  31. Daria Nicolodi, Opera, Italy, 1987.   Italian maestro Dario Argento meets Macbeth. And everyone’s cursed. Van flew to Rome, was met by director Argento at the airport.   Befitting her role of an opera singer’s agent, she asked: “How much?” Ah…!  And she left on the next plane!  Dario’s ex (Asia’s mother) took over. 
  32.  Shirley MacLaine, Madame Sousatzka, 1987.     Tied to the project about a  renowned Russian piano teacher when UK director John Schlesinger won his $5.5m budget. Madame Shirley won best actress at the 1988 Venice fest.  
  33. Theresa Russell, Track 29, 1988.        Or Track 39, when planned as director Joseph Losey’s first film in the US for 37 years. “My problems with films,” said Losey, “began at 39.”  Directed by Theresa’s husband – the great Nic Roeg,
  34. Anjelica Huston, The Witches, 1988.  …and  Nic made  this one, as well… Olivja  Hussey topped  author Ronald Dahl’s wish list for Miss Ernst, aka The Grand High Witch. However, Anjelica was on Nic Roeg’s list. And he was the director!  He took his time combing through the 13 other candidates:  From Linda Blair (little Regan grew up to be a witch?), Genevieve Bujold, Cher, Frances Conroy, Faye Dunaway, Jodie Foster, Liza Minnelli, Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver to true Brits Fiona Fullerton, Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave… and the sole Black star considered, Eartha Kitt.  Together with Bancroft, they all escaped eight hours of make-up each day!  Appalled by the vulgar bad taste and actual terror” in the film, Dahl threatened to take his name off it.  Jim Henson talked him out of it for the Muppeteer’s final production.  
  35. Helen Mirren, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, 1989.     Best out of Peter Greenaway’s melodramatic Dutch-French hotchpotch.  
  36. Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
  37. Madge Sinclair, The Lion King, 1993.     Also in the mix to voice Queen Sarabi in the 32nd Disney toon – Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! – were Virginia McKenna and Helen Mirren. Sinclair was also queen to James Earl Jones’ king in Coming To America, 1988. In TV history books as the first woman starship captain in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986, the Jamaican actress died of leukemia in 1995. As a mark of respect, Disney refused to cast another actress and deleted Sarabi from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride in 1998.
  38. Maggie Smith, Tea With Mussolini, 1999.     First choice of Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli for Lady Random, one of the three British expat eccentrics becoming the protagonist’s adoptive aunts – based upon the childhood chapter of Zeffirelli’s autobiography.
  39. Bebe Neuwirth, Celebrity, 1997.     Always hard to please, auteur Woody Allen did not like the Redgrave sequence. He re-shot it with Elaine Stritch. Didn’t like that either. He rewrote it and went younger with the Tony and Emmy award-winning Neuwirth… as a hooker instructing Judy Davis about fellatio with the help of a banana! Stritch had been here before during the re-shoot circus that was September in 1986, which Woody shot twice over, damn nearly thrice!
  40. Charlotte Rampling, I’ll Sleep When l’m Dead, 2002.  Although you could be forgiven for thinking it was the 60s when you learn that Jacqueline Bisset, Julie Christie and Vanessa Redgrave were up for what became Charlotte Rampling’s role of ex-gangster Clive Owen’s main squeeze from back in the day. 
  41. Eileen Atkins, Robin Hood, 2009.     There was a moment when the Nottingham reboot had Redgrave as Eleanor of Aquitaine. She pulled out after the tragic death of her daughter, Natasha Richardson, Mrs Liam Neeson, following a ski-ing accident in Canada.










 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  41